March 1, 2007

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Death by a thousand tickets
By†Jody Reese

Driving down Elm Street earlier this week, I couldnít help noticing that there were no Banana Republics. Nor were there numerous dress shops, cafťs and tourist trinket shops. Instead, I saw a lot of small businesses that continue to struggle to pay the rent.

But thatís not the way new parking czar Brandy Stanley and the mayor and aldermen see the downtown. They see it as a cash cow, a place ripe for a tax increase.

Much to the surprise of no one, once the mayor and board brought on a parking czar she set about making her department larger. Not only did the mayor and parking czar bring in the expensive and annoying parking blocks that require one to jump over snow banks multiple times, but now they say they need more meter maids to catch more people who canít climb the snow embankments. The rationale for this move: they have done it in Portsmouthís downtown.

Well, Manchesterís downtown isnít as successful as Portsmouthís.

While rents on Elm Street hover between $10 and $14 per square foot, in Portsmouth rents are more than twice that. Second-floor rents in downtown Manchester range from $8 to $12 per square foot. In downtown Portsmouth rents for that type of space are $16 to $20 per square foot.

Regulating parking should not be a business for the city. It should be a way to make sure that parking spaces revolve between users so stores and offices downtown have places for their customers to park.

The mayor and aldermen are so hungry for any cash that isnít from property taxes that they are willing to eat their young. In this case, itís the struggling businesses along Elm Street. What our elected officials and their short-sighted supporters fail to see is that these bars, restaurants, gift shops, jewelry stores, nail salons and sandwich shops help to make all of Manchester a destination. These businesses help drive property values all across the city up. Why do you think developers have been building condos along the Merrimack River or off Front Street? Itís because Manchester has (or is on the way to having) a unique and viable downtown filled with small shops, cafťs, restaurants and bars. Just six years ago, many of the storefronts on Elm Street were empty (some filled with trash). The downtown isnít yet strong enough to sustain the parking onslaught by the parking czar. As it is at least three restaurants along Elm between Bridge and Granite streets are for sale ó and theyíre not selling. Thatís not a sign of downtown health.

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Ski Cannon for the kids

This weekend instead of hanging around the house or heading to Portsmouth, where youíre likely to be ticketed, consider going skiing at Whaleback in Enfield, Saturday, March 3, to benefit the Childrenís Hospital at Dartmouth. For more information visit chadchallenge.kintera.org.